By: Rabbi Menashe Sasson
Reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
The Torah, in Parashat Terumah, sets forth the commandment that the Jewish people construct the Mikdash (Sanctuary) in the desert, so that offerings can be brought to HaShem.
“And the Lord said to Moshe, saying, speak to the Children of Yisra’el that they may bring Me an offering. . . . And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” Shemot 25:1-8.
The Torah, in Parashat Terumah, then goes into painstaking detail to describe how the Mishkan (temporary Sanctuary) is to be constructed.
Parashat Terumah, however, is not the only place where we find a command to build a Mikdash.
Thus, we see that the counterpart to the Mishkan (temporary Sanctury) in the desert is the Beit HaMikdash (permanent Sanctuary) in Yerushalayim.
Further, we learn that building and maintaining a Sanctuary is a timeless obligation. In Parashat Terumah, the Jewish people were commanded to build a Mikdash in the desert. Later, in Sefer Debarim, the Jewish people were commanded to build a Mikdash “in the land which the Lord God of thy fathers gives thee to possess it, all the days that you live upon the earth. . . .” In other words, as the Ohr HaHayim (Hayyim ben Moshe ibn Attar, 1696-1743) held, it is a positive commandment for the Jewish people to build and maintain a Beit HaMikdash whenever the Jewish people reside in Eretz Israel. That is, when the Jewish people are in possession of the Eretz Israel, they are subject to a positive Biblical commandment to build and maintain a Mikdash “all the days that [the Jewish people] live upon the earth.”
The Rambam (Moses ben Maimon, a.k.a Maimonides, 1138-1204) held that, upon entering Eretz Israel, the Jewish people became obligated to appoint a king, “erase the memory of Amalek,” and build a Beit HaMikdash. Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 1:1. The Rambam also held that the appointment of a king should precede the war against Amalek, and that the seed of Amalek should be annihilated prior to the construction of the Beit HaMikdash. Id., 1:2.
An obvious difficulty with building a Mikdash only after a king has been appointed over Israel and after the king has “annihilated” the seed of Amalek, is the fact King Solomon built the first Beit HaMikdash, notwithstanding that the seed of Amalek has never been “annihilated.”
The Talmud, on the other hand, states that “[e]very generation which did not witness the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash, is considered as if it was destroyed in that generation.” Talmud Yerushalayim, Maseket Yoma 1:1.
The Sfat Emet (Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, 1847-1905) explained that the Talmud should not be taken literally, but rather, should be understood to mean that each generation must at least do its part to facilitate the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash.
Today, the Jewish people have, after having been dispossessed of sovereignty over Eretz Israel for some 2000 years, once again possess political sovereignty over Yerushalayim and Medinat Israel (the modern day State of Israel).
What, as a practical matter, can we, the Jewish people, do in this generation to facilitate the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash?
In order to construct any building, one must first prepare the construction site by removing anything and everything that is unnecessary or detrimental to the construction of the intended new building. Thus, the first step in rebuilding the Beit HaMikdash must be to remove all the mosques that currently occupy the Temple Mount and its surrounding areas.
Preparing the Temple Mount for the Third Beit HaMikdash won’t be easy, but it is necessary. As most of us know from experience, the longer one delays in doing something that must be done, the harder it usually is to complete the task. Our purpose in this World is to work, so let us — without further delay — get down to the business of working to build the Third Beit HaMikdash, before that task becomes even more difficult that it already is.
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Menashe Sasson is a Sephardic rabbi and American attorney who resides in Jerusalem, Israel.